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German nouns have a
grammatical gender In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most langua ...
, as in many related
Indo-European languages The Indo-European languages are a language family A language family is a group of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, based on speech and gesture (spoken language), Signed language, sign, or o ...
. They can be masculine, feminine, or neuter: even words for objects without (obvious) masculine or feminine characteristics like 'bridge' or 'rock' can be masculine or feminine. German nouns are also declined (change form) depending on their
grammatical case Grammatical case is a term regarding a manner of categorizing s, s, s, s, and s according to their traditionally corresponding s within a given , , or . In some languages, nouns, pronouns, adjectives, s, participles, prepositions, numerals, art ...
(their function in a sentence) and whether they are singular or plural. German has four cases,
nominative In grammar In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Linguistics encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as ...
,
accusative The accusative case (list of glossing abbreviations, abbreviated ) of a noun is the grammatical case used to mark the direct object of a transitive verb. The same case is used in many languages for the objects of (some or all) prepositions. It is ...
,
dative In grammar In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Linguistics encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as ...
and
genitive In grammar In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Linguistics encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, a ...
. German, along with other
High German languages The High German languages or High German dialects (german: hochdeutsche Mundarten) comprise the variety (linguistics), varieties of German language, German spoken south of the Benrath line, Benrath and Uerdingen line, Uerdingen isoglosses in ce ...
, such as
Luxembourgish Luxembourgish ( ; also ''Luxemburgish'', ''Luxembourgian'', ''Letzebu(e)rgesch''; Luxembourgish: ) is a West Germanic language West or Occident is one of the four cardinal directions or points of the compass The points of the compass ...
, is unusual among languages using the
Latin alphabet The Latin alphabet or Roman alphabet is the collection of letters originally used by the ancient Romans In historiography Historiography is the study of the methods of historian ( 484– 425 BC) was a Greek historian who lived ...

Latin alphabet
in that ''all'' nouns, both proper and
common Common may refer to: Places * Common, a townland in County Tyrone County Tyrone (; ) is one of the thirty-two counties of Ireland Ireland (; ga, Éire ; Ulster Scots dialect, Ulster-Scots: ) is an island in the North Atlantic Ocean, ...
, are capitalized (for example, "the book" is always written as ''"das Buch"''). Only a handful of other languages generally capitalize their nouns, mainly
regional language A regional language is a language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most languages have a writing system composed o ...
s with orthographical conventions inspired by German such as
Low German : : : : : , minority = (70,000) (30,000) (8,000) , familycolor = Indo-European , fam2 = Germanic Germanic may refer to: * Germanic peoples, an ethno-linguistic group identified by their use of the Germanic langua ...
and Saterland Frisian. (Under the influence of German, the Scandinavian languages formerly capitalized their nouns;
Danish Danish may refer to: * Something of, from, or related to the country of Denmark * A national or citizen of Denmark, also called a "Dane", see Demographics of Denmark * Danish people or Danes, people with a Danish ancestral or ethnic identity * Danis ...
retained the habit until 1948). Noun
compounds Compound may refer to: Architecture and built environments * Compound (enclosure), a cluster of buildings having a shared purpose, usually inside a fence or wall ** Compound (fortification), a version of the above fortified with defensive structu ...
are written together (for example, the German word for "spy satellite" is ''"Spionagesatellit"''). German
plurals The plural (sometimes abbreviated An abbreviation (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rom ...
are normally formed by adding ''-e'', ''-en'', ''-er'' or nothing to the noun, sometimes also a vowel is changed, the so-called umlaut. Recent
loanwords A loanword (also loan word or loan-word) is a word In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gesture ...
from French and English often keep the ''-s'' plural ending.


Declension for case

N-nouns: A masculine or neuter noun with genitive singular and nominative plural ending in ''-(e)n'' is called an ''n-noun'' or ''weak noun'' (German: ). Sometimes these terms are extended to feminine nouns with genitive singular ''-'' and nominative plural ''-en''. For the four cases, nominative, accusative, dative and genitive, the main forms of declension are: For singular nouns: I: Feminine nouns usually have the same form in all four cases.
nom. , acc. , dat. , gen.
Exceptions are: * Old declensions like with genitive and dative singular (in older usage) * Words derived from Latin with nominative singular in -a and genitive singular (in older usage) * Proper nouns derived from Latin: (“Mary” in English) with genitive singular and . * Proper nouns which have two genitive forms like (“Brunhild's spear”) and (“the spear of Brunhild”). * The words which have forms like , but also . II: Personal names, all neuter and most masculine nouns have genitive case ''-(e)s'' endings: normally ''-es'' if one syllable long, ''-s'' if more. Traditionally the nouns in this group also add -e in the dative case, but this is now often ignored.
nom. , acc. , dat. , gen.
nom. , acc. , dat. , gen. . III: Masculine and neuter n-nouns take -(e)n for genitive, dative and accusative: this is used for masculine nouns ending with -e denoting people and animals, masculine nouns ending with mostly denoting people, and a few others, mostly animate nouns.
a) nom. , acc. , dat. , gen.
b) nom. , acc. , dat. , gen. . IV: A few masculine nouns take ''-(e)n'' for accusative and dative, and -(e)ns for genitive.
a) nom. , acc. , dat. , gen.
b) nom. , acc. , dat. , gen. . For plural nouns:
V: In the dative case, all nouns which do not already have an -n or -s ending add -n.
a) nom. , acc. , dat. , gen.
b) nom. , acc. , dat. , gen.


General rules of declension

* Given the nominative singular, genitive singular, and nominative plural of a noun, it is possible to determine its declension. * Note that for most feminine nouns, all singular forms are identical. This means that since n-nouns in general have all plural forms identical, all feminine n-nouns are effectively indeclinable. * The dative plural of all nouns ends in -n if such an ending does not already exist, except that of nouns that form the plural with -s, which are usually
loan word A loanword (also loan word or loan-word) is a word In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gesture ...
s. * Most nouns do not take declensions in the accusative or singular dative cases. A class of masculine nouns, called "weak nouns," takes the ending -n or -en in all cases except the nominative. Dative forms with the ending ''-e,'' known in German as the are mostly restricted to formal usage, but widely limited to poetic style. Such forms are not commonly found in modern prose texts, except in fixed expressions (such as : "to be able") and for certain words (e.g. or ) which are, however, quite numerous; in these cases, omitting the ''-e'' would be similarly unusual. This ending is also still used semi-productively in poetry and music, mostly for the purposes of meter and rhyme. Nevertheless, in the genitive, the ending ''-es'' is used … * ''necessarily'' if the word ends with a sibilant () * ''usually'' by monosyllabic words * ''commonly'' if it ends on the letter ''d'' Only words of more syllables usually add a simple ''-s'' In colloquial usage, moreover, singular inflection of weak masculine nouns may be limited to those ending in ''-e'' Other nouns of this class are sometimes not inflected. Thus one might occasionally hear instead of the more formal .


Declension classes


Irregular declensions

* * vernacularly: ''dem Herz'' Many foreign nouns have irregular plurals, for example:


Orthography

All German nouns are capitalized. German is the only major language to capitalize its nouns. This was also done in the
Danish language Danish (; , ) is a North Germanic language The North Germanic languages make up one of the three branches of the Germanic languages—a sub-family of the Indo-European languages—along with the West Germanic languages and the extinct East ...
until 1948 and sometimes in (New) Latin, while
Early Modern English Early Modern English or Early New English (sometimes abbreviated EModE, EMnE, or EME) is the stage of the English language English is a of the , originally spoken by the inhabitants of . It is named after the , one of the ancient th ...
showed tendencies towards noun capitalization. Capitalization is not restricted to nouns. Other words are often capitalized when they are nominalized (for instance ''das Deutsche'' ‘the German language’, a nominalized adjective).


Compounds

As in other Germanic languages, German nouns can be
compound Compound may refer to: Architecture and built environments * Compound (enclosure), a cluster of buildings having a shared purpose, usually inside a fence or wall ** Compound (fortification), a version of the above fortified with defensive struct ...
in effectively unlimited numbers, as in '' Rinderkennzeichnungs- und Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz'' ('Cattle Marking and Beef Labelling Supervision Duties Delegation Law', the name of an actual law passed in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern in 1999), or ''
Donaudampfschiffahrtsgesellschaft The Erste (, literally ''First-Danube-Steamboat-Shipping Company'') or DDSG was a shipping Freight transport is the physical process of transport Transport (in British English), or transportation (in American English), is the Motio ...
'' ('Danube Steamboat Shipping Company', 1829). Unlike
English compounds A compound Compound may refer to: Architecture and built environments * Compound (enclosure), a cluster of buildings having a shared purpose, usually inside a fence or wall ** Compound (fortification), a version of the above fortified with def ...
, German compound nouns are always written together as a single word: "spy satellite" is thus ''Spionagesatellit'' and "mad cow disease" ''Rinderwahn''. Compound nouns take the gender of the last component noun (the
head Head Sport GmbH is an American-Austrian manufacturing company Manufacturing is the creation or production Production may be: Economics and business * Production (economics) * Production, the act of manufacturing goods * Production, in th ...

head
). In addition, there is the grammatical feature of the ''Fugen-"s"'': certain compounds introduce an "s" between the noun stems, historically marking the genitive case of the first noun (cf. Idafa), but it occurs frequently after nouns which do not actually take an "s" in their genitive cases. In many instances, the compound is acceptable both with and without the "s", but there are many cases where the "s" is mandatory and this cannot be deduced from grammatical rules, e.g. ''Hochzeitskleid'' = "wedding dress", ''Liebeslied'' = "love song", ''Abfahrtszeit'' = "time of departure", ''Arbeitsamt'' = "
employment agency An employment agency is an organization which matches employers to employees. In developed countries, there are multiple private businesses which act as employment agencies and a publicly-funded employment agency. Public employment agencies One ...
". Occurrence of the ''Fugen-"s"'' seems to be correlated to certain suffixes (of the first stem); compounds with words in ''-tum'', ''-ling'', ''-ion'', ''-tät'', ''-heit'', ''-keit'', ''-schaft'', ''-sicht'', ''-ung'' and nominalized infinitives in ''-en'' mostly do take the "s", while feminine words not ending in ''-ion'', ''-tät'', ''-heit'', ''-keit'', ''-schaft'', ''-sicht'', ''-ung'' mostly do not, but there are exceptions. Use of the "s" is mostly optional in compounds in which the second element is a participle."Der Gebrauch des Fugen-s im Überblick"
''
Spiegel Online ''Der Spiegel'' (stylized as ''DER SPIEGEL'' in its logo) is the largest German news website An online newspaper (or electronic news or electronic news publication) is the electronic publishing, online version of a newspaper, either as a stand ...
''. To reduce length or to highlight distinctions, a prefix or suffix is sometimes mentioned only once but applies to more than one compound noun. For example: * ''Bildergalerien und -ausstellungen'' ("picture galleries and ictureexhibitions") * ''Nähe Haupt- und Busbahnhof'' ("near the main railway tationand bus station")


Issues with number

As in English, some nouns (e.g. mass nouns) only have a singular form (''singularia tantum''); other nouns only have a plural form ('' ''pluralia tantum''''): * ''Das All'', ''der Durst'', ''der Sand'' ("the Universe", "thirst", "sand") * ''Die Kosten'', ''die Ferien'' ("costs", "the holidays") Traps abound in both directions here: common mass nouns in English are not mass nouns in German, and vice versa: * ''information'' – ''Informationen'', ''die Information'' ("the piece of information"), ''die Informationen'' ("the pieces of information") * ''the police are'' (pl.) = ''die Polizei ist'' (sg.) Again as in English, some words change their meaning when changing their number: *''Geld'' ("money") – ''Gelder'' ("different sources of money") *''Wein'' ("wine") – ''die Weine'' ("different types of wine") A few words have two different plurals with distinct meanings. For example: *''Wort'' ("word") – ''Wörter'' (isolated words, as in "five words") - ''Worte'' (connected, meaningful words, as in "his last words") *''Bau'' – ''Bauten'' ("buildings") – ''Baue'' ("burrows") Some words share the singular and can only be distinguished by their gender and sometimes their plural (compare “bases” in English, which can be the plural of two distinct words, “base” and “basis”): * ''Gehalt'' – ''das Gehalt'', ''die Gehälter'' ("salary") – ''der Gehalt'', ''die Gehalte'' ("content") * ''Band'' – ''das Band'', ''die Bänder'' ("ribbon") – ''der Band'', ''die Bände'' ("volume (of a book)") * ''Teil'' – ''das Teil'', ''die Teile'' (physical "piece" e.g. from a machine) – ''der Teil'', ''die Teile'' (conceptual "part" e.g. from a speech) * ''See'' – ''der See'', ''die Seen'' ("lake") – ''die See'' ("sea", no plural form) – ''die See'', ''die Seen'' (nautical term for "(large) wave") * ''Kiefer'' – ''der Kiefer'', ''die Kiefer'' ("jawbone") – ''die Kiefer'', ''die Kiefern'' ("pine tree")


See also

*
German grammar German grammar is the set of structural rules of the German language The German language (, ) is a West Germanic language mainly spoken in Central Europe. It is the most widely spoken and official or co-official language in Germany, Austri ...


References

;Notes ;Citations


External links

{{wiktionarycat, type=German nouns, category=German nouns
German Nouns and Gender
– German grammar lesson covering nouns and gender
Nouns A noun () is a word In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) ...
Nouns A noun () is a word In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) ...
de:Deutsche Deklination#Substantive